Exercise and Migraine

Ah, yes.

For some, exercise that raises heartrate can be a migraine trigger.

And so it is for me as well.

I first began to miss opportunity for "strenuous" exercise due to a genetic condition that makes me prone to joint injury (EDS). After a lifetime of knee and ankle injuries followed by surgeries and incomplete healing, my choices for cardio became "no impact". Even then, I'd still get hurt.

As if one co-morbid condition was too easy, I also have genetic heart irregularities (arrythmia, hypotension, and MVP). I'd always gotten a little light-headed if my heart rate soared, but light to moderate exercise had been tolerated....


I began to get migraines.

So, here am I now. I am very limited in what physical activities I can do in order to stay mentally and physically fit. I thought I would share what (generally) works for me and maybe it will help those with exercise-triggered migraines have some options to consider and help those without migraine understand the challenge.

I love biking, hiking and dancing.

So, I still do those things. I just keep my activity at a pace that keeps my heart rate low and steady. I make sure to drink extra water before starting and drink water while active. I incorporate dance into my daily life, hopping and bopping around my house as I go about my chores, or to the tunes playing in business. I exercise like someone in their 80s. Easy does it.

And I take extra steps. I was once skeptical of the benefits of this but it does work. Carry a pedometer or use an app to see just how many calories you can burn and how much distance you walk just going from room to room in your own house. Less couch, mor toodling! I tend to do this only at home. When out and about I take direct, time-saving, trigger-reducing routes. There are too many triggers outside the home to take extra steps for fitness sake.

I also have a small in-house trampoline with a stabilizing bar. I can bounce or jog in place and burn quite a few calories. It's also quite fun!

I do simple yoga and calisthenics (like leg lifts, squats, etc) using only my body weight for resistance to maintain core strength and tone. Many can be done seated or even lying down and still be beneficial. Working without machines also develops small, stabilizing muscles. Additionally, yoga provides me a sense of grace in body and mind.

That's it.

Training for marathons is for others.

I can still dance all night. Okay, until a reasonable bedtime, since sleep loss will trigger a migraine, too. And, of course mid-attack all I do is lie in bed. That's all that is possible at those times.

But doing these simple "exercises", along with a sound diet, keeps me at a healthy weight, provides opportunities for socialization (walking buddies!), helps me with emotional balance, maintains some dignity in the midst of disability, gives me challenge and stimulates creativity (can I stay fit without "over doing it"), promotes "me time", reduces stress, helps with pain management, etc etc etc.

All the benefits that are associated with "strenuous" exercise.

Well, maybe I miss out on "runner's high", but I'm fine with that. Because all I get is "runner's migraine." When I first began to be limited in exercise, I did grieve. And I'd push myself. Then I'd suffer.

Now, though I do find joy in easy exercise. There is more happiness. Instead of pushing, I pull myself. I pull myself back from harm and toward health.

I pull myself up. Migraine already knocks me down. It's better if I pull myself up.

What about you? Does exercise trigger migraines? Have you found a fitness routine that is beneficial? I'd love to hear your creative solutions!

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